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  1. Stars help open US performing arts centre

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    January 15, 2019 by admin

    Most community performing-arts centres open with the mayor in attendance, maybe a few local business owners.


    Not in Beverly Hills.

    The opening of the city’s Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts was celebrated with a black-tie gala on Thursday night that drew scores of stars, including Kevin Spacey, Charlize Theron, Jodie Foster, Amy Adams, Demi Moore, an apparently pregnant Gwen Stefani, her husband Gavin Rossdale and many others.

    “It’s such an artistic community here,” said Adams, who sat near actress Maria Bello.

    “It’s really nice to bring the arts that inform the film community to Beverly Hills. It’s nice to have it in our backyard.”

    Joe Jonas, Josh Duhamel, Sherry Lansing, Nicole Richie, Courteney Cox, James Caan, Jason Bateman and Suzanne Somers also attended the opening-night gala. The mayor of Beverly Hills was on hand, too, thanking the centre’s namesake benefactor for “saving our city from being a cultural wasteland.”

    The new facility, which has been under construction for a decade, takes over the city’s original 1933 post office building. It now boasts two theatres and will host concerts, plays, dance performances and drama classes for young people.

    Keeping with the building’s original theme, Spacey, John Lithgow and Diane Lane helped inaugurate the new 500-seat Goldsmith Theater by reading letters from Groucho Marx, Tennessee Williams, Peter Tchaikovsky and others.

    A dinner of filet mignon over white truffle risotto followed the performance, along with a fashion show by event sponsor Salvatore Ferragamo and a performance by Italian tenor Vittorio Grigolo.

    Public performances by the Martha Graham Dance Company begin at the Wallis centre next month.

  2. UNESCO warned over approvals deal

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    January 15, 2019 by admin

    The UN’s environmental arm has been warned that a deal between the prime minister and the Queensland premier on development approvals is a major threat to the Great Barrier Reef.


    Under a deal signed in Brisbane on Friday, Queensland will take sole responsibility for assessing major development projects, making sure they comply with federal and state environmental laws.

    The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) says the deal poses a grave risk to the reef, which narrowly avoided being declared a World Heritage Site In Danger by UNESCO.

    In a letter to UNESCO the ACF highlights the Queensland government’s patchy environmental record, including attempts to allow oil drilling on the Great Barrier Reef and major developments on Great Barrier Reef islands.

    “We believe there is a very high danger that the Queensland Government will undertake environmental approvals on the Commonwealth’s behalf that will threaten the universal values of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area,” the letter to UNESCO’s director Kishore Rao says.

    The letter urges Mr Rao to write to the prime minister expressing concern.

    “Successive Queensland governments have shown they cannot be trusted to make decisions that are in the interests of the nation,” ACF said in a statement on Friday.

    WWF said the deal was “a step too far” and approval powers would remove federal protections for the country’s “most special” places and wildlife.

    In contrast the Queensland Resources Council said the deal was a “landmark agreement” that would eliminate duplication and reduce delays.

    The Tourism and Transport Forum said the new regime would encourage investment in tourism.

    A full deal formalising the new system is expected within a year.

    Both governments say the change will remove duplication, and should result in plans for new developments being approved within 12 months.

    Mr Abbott and Mr Newman refused to speak to reporters after the signing.

  3. No point moaning about the conditions, says Loew

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    January 15, 2019 by admin

    “If you start fretting and occupying yourself with such matters, then you have already lost,” he told a news conference in Frankfurt.


    Loew also tried to dampen down the huge expectations in Germany for the tournament, saying it would be disrespectful to rule out other teams.

    “I think that our results over the last four years mean that we count among the favourites but, on the other hand, I do not see us as the only possible winners,” he said.

    “That would be disrespectful to the other teams. Spain have won the last three major tournaments, Brazil are playing in their own country and have won the Confederations Cup, and there are other top quality teams.”

    The decision to extend Loew’s contract came three days after Germany completed their World Cup qualifying campaign with nine wins and a draw from 10 games and 36 goals scored.

    The federation wanted to sort out his future as quickly as possible to avoid any distractions in the run-up to the tournament.

    “Since the World Cup in 2006, the team have always been among the top four at the World Cup and European championship,” said DFB president Wolfgang Niersbach in a statement.

    “We have great trust in Joachim Loew and …we would like to show this with the contract extension.”

    Loew, 53, was something of a surprise appointment when was promoted from assistant to replace Juergen Klinsmann following Germany’s third place at the 2006 World Cup.

    Before that, he had spent much of his coaching career in Austria and Turkey, with experience in his homeland restricted to a successful two-year stint at VfB Stuttgart in the mid-1990s and a short spell at second division Karsruher.

    Loew, who has made a policy of giving young players an early opportunity in the team, led Germany to the final at Euro 2008 and the semi-finals at the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012. He has been in charge for 99 internationals with 68 wins, 16 draws and 15 defeats.

    His most controversial decision has been his refusal to select Bayer Leverkusen striker Stefan Kiessling, who has not been picked for three years despite finishing as the Bundesliga’s top-scorer last season.

    (Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Ed Osmond)

  4. McIlroy still a Korea Open contender

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    January 15, 2019 by admin

    Former world No.


    1 Rory McIlroy overcame five bogeys to get into contention heading into weekend play at the Kolon Korea Open on Friday.

    The two-time major champ compensated for those five hiccups with seven birdies for a two-under 69 at the par-71 Woo Jeong Hills Country Club, where the Northern Irish star is the marquee name at the $US1 million ($A1.04 million) OneAsia Tour stop.

    He is tied for fifth at three-under for the tournament, two strokes behind the leader Hong Soon-Sang. The South Korean fired a bogey-free round of 68.

    Three more South Koreans remained one stroke behind Hong.

    McIlroy, coming off a month-long break, is hoping to pick up his first win of 2013, as he kicked off the late-season Asian swing.

    Starting the day on the back nine, McIlroy opened with a birdie, but then committed three straight bogeys starting on the par-4 14th.

    After making the turn, McIlroy had four birdies against one bogey over his final nine holes.

    The world number six said his day was “pretty solid” aside from the bogeys on his first nine.

    “I hit some good shots and made some good birdies,” he said. “I’m driving the ball very well and for the most part my iron play is pretty good, but I definitely missed a few opportunities out there.

    “I’m in a good position going into the weekend and that’s all you can ask for,” he added.

    McIlroy said he was disappointed with the closing bogey but he will try to stay patient the rest of the way.

    “I don’t need to go out there and be overly aggressive,” he said, “but I just want to get myself into a good position for Sunday if possible.”

    First-round leader Jang Ik-Jae joined McIlroy at three-under after shooting a 72 on Friday.

    Hong, meanwhile, followed up a 69 with a 68 for the only bogey-less round of the day.

    “I was very pleased to go around without a bogey but I think I had a bit of luck,” he said. “Some of the pins were really hard, but I managed to get it close or make up-and-down. The real game starts from tomorrow.”

    Defending champion Kim Dae-Sub shot a 73 to fall into a six-way tie for 13th.

    McIlroy is the only foreign player inside the top 10 heading into the weekend.

  5. Contador wary of Schleck threat

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    January 15, 2019 by admin

    Alberto Contador said watching Lance Armstrong suffer during the Tour de France’s tough eighth stage left him feeling sympathy, as well as admiration, for the American.


    Armstrong endured arguably his worst day of his career on the race when he crashed several times Sunday before trailing home almost 12 minutes behind stage winner Andy Schleck.

    The American’s bid for an eighth yellow jersey is now virtually over, a situation which, surprisingly, provoked feelings of sympathy from old foe Contador.

    “When I saw (the stage) on television I thought about all the things he’d accomplished in his career,” Contador, the reigning champion, said during the race’s first rest day Monday.

    “He really had a lot of bad luck, but still you don’t like to see a champion end up like that. I admire Armstrong, but maybe even more now than before.”

    Contador’s remarks come as a surprise less than a year after he said he had never admired the American, and never will.

    Cancer survivor Armstrong won the race seven years in a row from 1999-2005, after which he retired before making a second comeback in 2009.

    Contador won the Tour de France in 2007 with Armstrong’s former team Discovery Channel before they pulled out of cycling.

    The Spaniard joined Astana for 2008, but that year the team were not invited to the race — a sanction for their exclusion in 2007 when Alexandre Vinokourov tested positive for blood doping.

    When Armstrong made his return to the sport in 2009, it was with Astana — who were under new management.

    However Contador and Armstrong’s cohabitation at the 2009 race was a tense affair. Contador was the team leader, but Armstrong could not resist the temptation to show his own ambitions, leading to a division of loyalties in the team.

    Armstrong eventually finished third overall last year as Contador went on to clalim his second victory with a lead of over four minutes on Luxemburger Andy Schleck.

    After the race, tension transformed into a brief war of words with Contador saying that although Armstrong “is a great rider and had a great Tour, on a personal level I have never admired him and never will”.

    Contador meanwhile said he is satisfied with his race up till now.

    Despite sitting third overall at 1min 01sec behind Cadel Evans, with Andy Schleck in second place at 20sec, the Spaniard said it will soon be time to target the real challengers.

    The third week in the Pyrenees features four tough days of climbing, before a long time trial on the penultimate stage.

    “Soon I will have to pick which riders I really need to keep an eye on,” the Spaniard added.

    “For the moment there’s quite a bunch still in contention, but my biggest rival is Andy Schleck.

    “Still, Evans (Levi) Leipheimer and (Denis) Menchov are all strong time triallists, so I can’t allow them to take too much off me.”

    Schleck my biggest rival: Contador

    Two-time champion Alberto Contador believes Andy Schelck will be his biggest yellow jersey rival in the remaining mountain stages of the Tour de France.

    Contador sits third overall at 1min 01sec behind new race leader Cadel Evans of Australia, who has a 20sec lead on Schleck following the Luxemburger’s victory on stage eight in the Alps.

    Schleck’s attack in the final kilometre of the 14km climb to Avoriaz on Sunday left Contador’s group, which also contained Evans and several other contenders, struggling to counter.

    They eventually finished 10secs behind Schleck, and after the first real mountain stage of the race Contador has seen enough to believe that climbing faster than the Saxo Bank leader will be his biggest challenge this year.

    “Last year he (Schleck) gave me a few problems and this year he will be my biggest rival,” said the Spaniard, who won the race in 2007 and 2009.

    “When the attacks started (on the last climb) it wasn’t easy for me to counter, then Schleck attacked. I tried to follow him but when I saw they’d taken a small lead I decided to sit up.

    “In the end we lost a few seconds but overall it was a good result.”

    Contador’s Astana team set most of the attacking pace on the race’s last two climbs Sunday, a tactic employed to drop rivals and which proved fatal for some.

    Seven-time champion Lance Armstrong, who suffered a hip injury in one of his several crashes on the stage, could not close the gap and was left trailing to finish almost 12 minutes adrift, his Tour campaign now virtually over.

    Schleck, like Evans and many other favourites, was left with no teammates to help him as Contador’s Astana team kept numbers up front until the final few kilometres of the stage.

    The Spaniard said Astana had done great work in trying to put time into their rivals, and that as of Tuesday’s final day in the Alps they will look for a repoeat.

    “We took responsibility for the race because we saw that Lance (Armstrong) was behind and that all the rest (of the field) were struggling.

    “It seems he (Armstrong) lost a lot of time although there’s still a lot of stages for him to attack.

    “After the rest day, I hope we can be just as effective.”

    Armstrong, on his final Tour campaign, is now 39th overall at 13:26 behind Evans.

  6. Art from the ashes

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    January 15, 2019 by admin

    Ursula Theinert spent much of February 7 last year battling to save her Callignee home, fighting the flames alongside her husband Werner.


    Reduced to filling buckets from an outdoor spa pool as smoke and ash filled their mud-brick house, the pair miraculously stopped the Churchill fire – which killed 11 people – from claiming the building.

    But they had to watch, helpless, as their neighbour’s home exploded in flames before their eyes “like a match, woof”, and the bushfire claimed their treasured studio.

    As February 8 dawned, the Theinerts considered themselves among the lucky ones – they had, after all, survived – albeit without a single paintbrush to their name.

    Studio destroyed in bushfire

    “Everything was destroyed, our studio was destroyed, I didn’t have a paintbrush, or anything, and we were in shock for a long time,” explains Ursula.

    “We had to get to a certain level of control, I suppose, before we could even think about art.”

    They also had to restock – and for that they have many people – including some anonymous donors – to thank.

    “The kindness of people has been absolutely amazing, from family and friends and loved ones, but also from total strangers.

    “Somebody found out through someone else about me losing everything, and then I got a parcel in the mail with some paintbrushes – I didn’t even know the person.

    For her husband Werner, the creative process began as the fire was still smouldering.

    Creativity from destruction

    “In the early hours of the morning, as the dawn came, he took his camera and took hundreds of photographs of the destruction: the garages, our home, our garden, everything,” she says.

    “He’s based his work on those photographs. He’s taken something destructive and created something out of that – made it a positive.”

    For Ursula, the return to art took a little longer, but eventually, she says, “you start to feel healed enough to start painting”.

    And the creative journey she has been on ever since has helped her deal with the emotions sparked by the Black Saturday fires.

    “If you look at my work it really is like seeing someone going through the grieving process…

    Artwork ‘like a funeral’

    “I was trying to get all my emotions out, my anger out, my fear out.

    “I think in a way it was like a funeral, in the sense it was a coming to terms with the reality of it, and an acceptance of it.”

    After Ashes to Ashes, her first work after the blaze, Ursula turned to her conviction that somone – or something – had been watching over them as the fires raged.

    “We knew there were several times that we could have died, but we didn’t, and so again it was coming to terms with the miracle of surviving something.

    “Fire Angels tried to express that sense of a presence, an other-ness there that guided us, that whispered to us, that showed us, that kept vigil over us.”

    Signs of hope, renewal

    A year after the fires that nearly took her home and her life, Ursula is looking forward.

    “As the bush is regenerating, so are we, in a way.

    “My latest piece, Metamorphosis, is about the trees, the way they look at the moment is alien, because they are the opposite to what a normal tree is, where you only have leaves on the tips of the branches.

    “Looking out of my window now, I can see a tree that has almost a woolly fur coat going up it, and the very tips have nothing.

    “It’s a very strange tree, but at the same time it’s a sign of hope, of renewal.”

    Listen to Ursula talking about her work, and see her paintings

  7. Jobs spruiks new iPods

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    January 15, 2019 by admin

    Apple unveiled a refreshed line of iPods on Wednesday and slashed the price of the Apple TV box that streams television shows and movies over the Web to high-definition TV sets.


    Apple chief executive Steve Jobs, speaking at an event at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, also introduced “Ping,” a music-oriented social network that allows iTunes users to share their music preferences.

    Jobs, dressed in his trademark long-sleeved black shirt, blue jeans and tennis shoes, said the second-generation of the Apple TV device would cost 99 dollars, down from 229 dollars.

    Apple released the first version of its digital media receiver that routes TV show and movies to HD TVs in 2007 but it never really caught on with the public.

    “Apple TV hasn’t been a big hit,” Jobs acknowledged as he revealed the palm-sized low-priced model he hoped will change that situation.

    The device is plugged into television sets but also links wirelessly to Apple’s hot-selling iPad tablet computers so people could start watching shows on one of the devices and then switch to the other when convenient.

    Jobs said Apple TV owners will be able to rent HD movies for 4.99 dollars and television shows from the Fox and ABC networks for 99 cents. US users can also stream content from movie rental service Netflix, he said.

    New iPods

    Jobs also said he was rolling out the “strongest new lineup of iPods we’ve ever had.

    “It’s the biggest change in the iPod lineup ever,” he said.

    The new iPod Touch allows for video calling. It has front- and rear-facing cameras which let a user hold video chats with iPhone or other iPod Touch owners using Wi-Fi and an Apple program called “FaceTime.”

    Jobs also showed off a new iPod Shuffle for 49 dollars and a touchscreen version of the middle-range iPod Nano starting at 149 dollars.

    The new iPod Touch costs 229 dollars for the eight-gigabyte model, 299 dollars for the 32GB model and 399 dollars for the 64GB version.

    The Apple chief also previewed the latest version of online store iTunes, iTunes 10 and music-oriented social network Ping.

    “It is sort of like Facebook and Twitter meet iTunes,” Jobs said, referring to the world’s top online social networking and microblogging services.

    “It is not Facebook. It is not Twitter. It is something else we’ve come up with. It’s all about music,” he said.

    Ping will automatically be available to the more than 160 million iTunes members worldwide when they update to the new version, which Apple made available as a free download at

    “Apple is now in the social networking game, but it is music centric which is really cool,” Gartenberg said as he left the event.

    “It is not about competing with Facebook or Twitter. This is about something they use in addition. When I want to hang with my music friends this is where I go.”

  8. Gay marriage bill fails in Senate

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    January 15, 2019 by admin

    Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young’s bill amended the Marriage Act, so it no longer discriminated on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.


    Senator Hanson-Young says more than 60 per cent of Australians want to see same-sex marriage legalised.

    But that figure wasn’t reflected in the Senate’s vote, with the bill going down 45 to five.

    But with the Mardi Gras approaching, members of the Gay and Lesbian community are still hopeful Australia’s policies on the issue can change.

    Andrew Williamson and his partner Mindigas have been together for 5 years.

    They firmly believe in marriage as an institution and want the same rights as their heterosexual friends.

    “If you love someone, care for them, are totally committed to them, then marriage is the ultimate expression we have to symbolise that relationship,” Mr Williamson told SBS.

    As the gay and lesbian Mardis Gras approaches, the NSW government chose this week to announce that it plans to allow gay couples to register their partnerships in the future.

    The move brings NSW into line with Victoria Tasmania and the ACT.

    Gay groups have welcomed the move but they say it doesn’t go far enough.

    “We believe marriage should be the ultimate goal with civil unions and relationship registries in addition to that to allow other people to choose what they’d like but full marriage equality is what we’re aiming for,” an actvist said.

    Andrew Williamson agrees. He says relationship registers are second rate and may actually encourage discrimination.

    “That sort of stigmatisation or classing homosexual relationships as being different from heterosexual relationships causes people to regard homosexuals as different from heterosexuals and that is not a good thing”.

    Sydney couple Vicky Harding and Jackie Braw have been together for eight years.

    Their issue is not with Australia’s marriage laws but with current legislation concerning adoption.

    Vicky wants Jackie to be able to adopt her daughter Brenna but the law here in NSW prevents it.

    “All these fantastic things we’ve achieved in Australia and yet we still have these ridiculous bits of discrimination lying around and yet we’re not willing to clean that up. It just doesn’t make sense,” she said.

    NSW had pledged to change the law but backed down in the face of opposition from groups which say only heterosexuals should have the right to adopt.

    It’s an argument 13-year-old Brenna does not understand

    “That’s just ridiculous. There is no proper family. This is as good a family as any. Better. Sure,” he said.

    For the time being the majority of Australia’s politicians beg to differ.

  9. Bushfire season underway in Victoria

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    January 15, 2019 by admin

    The Victorian bushfire season officially begins this week, amid warnings the state faces worse conditions than earlier this year.


    Premier John Brumby has urged Victorians in fire-prone areas to keep clearing debris from their properties to make their homes as fireproof as possible.

    “The thing about fire preparation is it’s not just done in one day or one week, this is something that people have got to work on right up to Christmas and right through January,” he said.

    Mr Brumby says Victorians face a hotter and more dangerous summer than they encountered last summer.

    “The start of the fire season is a call to action for all Victorians to be prepared and to be on alert,” he said.

    “Fire experts predict that this season could bring conditions every bit as bad, if not worse, than the season we’ve just experienced.”

    Meanwhile the Royal Commission into the Black Saturday Bushfires has heard the state’s police have been re-trained in the fundamentals of emergency management.

    SBS Reporter Rachel Baker reports the state’s top police officer says he’s discovered that there was confusion among members of his force.

    “What is command, what is control and what is co-ordination? And as I said in my introduction, unless you have that straight, everything that flows from there very quickly becomes confused and confusing”, says Police Chief Simon Overland.

    Officers have already received two-day refresher courses on the meaning of the terms.

    This season about 30 commercial radio stations across Victoria have joined the ABC and Sky Television as official broadcasters of bushfire and other emergency warnings.

    Mr Brumby said this means that warnings will not only go out across country Victoria but it will also reach a new and younger audience who are not necessarily tuned to the ABC.

    “Everywhere in Victoria is a fire risk this season and I urge all Victorians, if you have not done so already, to identify your fire risk, prepare a Bushfire Survival Plan and get involved in community fire preparation activities,” he said.

    A new “catastrophic” warning was added to a new national fire code to be used Australia-wide.

    Under the new six-stage rating system, fire danger starts at low to moderate and runs through to severe and extreme with the highest code red warning being catastrophic.

    Victorian government schools and children’s services in high-risk bushfire areas will close on days declared a catastrophic Code Red fire danger rating.

    Of the 52 towns and communities designated as being most at risk, more than 30 are in the Otway, Dandenong and Macedon Ranges.

    Concern is mounting over the townships on the fringes of the densely-forested Otways which include popular holiday resorts such as Torquay, Lorne and Apollo Bay along the Great Ocean Road.

    On February 16, 1983, the day of the Ash Wednesday fires that tore through the Otways, 75 people died in that region and neighbouring South Australia.

    The Royal Commission into the Black Saturday Bushfires has heard Victorian police have been re-trained in the fundamentals of emergency management.

    The Police Chief Commissioner also says communication will always be a difficult area – and that he expects to receive wrong information in future disasters.

  10. Dozens feared dead in quake, tsunami

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    January 15, 2019 by admin

    At least two dozen people are feared dead in Samoa and American Samoa and many more – including Australians – have been hurt, after a massive earthquake and tsunami hit the Pacific island nations.


    More than a dozen people are feared dead in Samoa, including at least three children, while at least 14 people were reported killed in American Samoa.

    The Red Cross and media reports put the death toll at at least 28, AFP reported, while the ABC said it could be as high as 40.

    “We are on our way to the south coast where or people have told us of 11 deaths and we heard on the radio of another three,” said Talutala Mauala, the secretary general of the Red Cross in Samoa.

    DFAT hotline for those concerned about relatives: 1300 555 135

    “There have also been some injuries. We won’t know the full extent of the damage until we get there and see for ourselves.”

    The federal government says a number of Australians have been injured in Samoa.

    “The early reports don’t suggest that any of them are very serious, but they are in hospital,” parliamentary secretary for international development assistance Bob McMullan told Sky News.

    The 8.3 magnitude quake struck at 6.48am Tuesday local time (0348 Wednesday AEST) midway between the two island nations.

    It triggered a tsunami warning for the South Pacific region, from American Samoa to New Zealand, although Australia was excluded. The warning was later cancelled.

    Dozens hurt, others missing

    Police in Samoa report five people dead while Tupua Tamasese Hospital in the capital of Apia told local radio the tsunami had killed at least three people, two believed to be children – and more than 50 are injured.

    Keni Lesa, editor of the Samoa Observer newspaper, says the toll has risen to more than a dozen, with many children among the dead.

    “The numbers keep going up but from what I’ve heard there are 14, maybe up to 20 people dead and several children, three and probably more,” Mr Lesa said.

    “There are dozens with injuries and even more missing.

    “It’s a real mess and we’re very worried at this stage that the numbers are far higher.”

    More people are believed to have died in nearby American Samoa, the US National Park Service reports.

    “I can confirm there is damage, I can confirm there are deaths and I can confirm there are casualties,” a spokeswoman for the service said by phone.

    Thousands left homeless

    “I cannot say any more at the moment.”

    Officials in American Samoa say at least 14 people were killed there when the tsunami swept ashore.

    Mase Akapo, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service, says the deaths occurred in four different villages on the main island of Tutuila, with six in the western area of Leone.

    There were reports of thousands of people left homeless in American Samoa.

    Officials on Samoa said an undetermined number of people had been killed or injured.

    A member of the National Disaster Management committee said the casualties occurred in the village of Talamoa, AP reported.

    Samoan police have confirmed that villages on the country’s southern coast had been hardest hit.

    Entire villages levelled

    Worst affected was the island of Upolu, where at least two villages were flattened.

    Associated Press reporter Keen Elsa said three or four villages on the popular tourist coast near the southern town of Lalomanu on Samoa’s main island of Upolu had been “wiped out” by waves.

    Keni said he had visited the town’s main hospital where “there are bodies everywhere,” including at least one child.

    A resident of one of the villages, Theresa Falele Dussey, told Radio New Zealand her house has been destroyed by the tsunami, as were houses and cars in a neighbouring village.

    She has been evacuated to Mt Vaea near Apia. “We just thanking God that we’re alive,” she said.

    New Zealand tourist Graeme Ansell said the beach village of Faofao on Upolu Island was levelled.

    “It was very quick. The whole village has been wiped out,” Ansell told National Radio from a hill near Samoa’s capital, Apia.

    “There’s not a building standing. We’ve all clambered up hills, and one of our party has a broken leg. There will be people in a great lot of need ’round here.”

    The powerful quake jolted people awake.

    ‘Trees, houses shaking’

    In Apia, families reported shaking that lasted for up to three minutes.

    “It was pretty strong; it was long and lasted at least two minutes,” one resident told local radio.

    “It’s the strongest I have felt, and we ran outside. You could see all the trees and houses were shaking,” he said.

    The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre put the quake’s magnitude at 8.3 while the US Geological Service put it at 8.0.

    The US Geological Service said the quake struck 35km below the ocean floor, 190km from American Samoa and 200km from Samoa.

    Aftershocks are continuing to jolt the two nations, as well as Tonga’s northern tourist islands of Vava’u.

    Tsunami warning cancelled

    New Zealand had been expected to be hit by a one-metre high wave about 10am local time (0700 AEST), however the alert has since been cancelled after waves reached just 40cm.

    A 1.5-metre tsunami wave swept into the American Samoa capital Pago Pago shortly after the earthquake, sending sea water surging inland about 100 metres before receding, leaving some cars stuck in mud.

    Electricity outages were reported and telephone lines were jammed.

    In Fagatogo, water reached the waterfront town’s meeting field and covered portions of the main highway, which also was plagued by rock slides.

    Mr McMullan said while a number of Australians had been injured it appeared to be not as bad as it may have been.

    “My advice is that the Australians are stable,” he said.

    “All of them have been able to contact their own families directly and none of them have said to the high commission they need any special extra assistance.”